A snazzy Upper West Side co-op building is looking to evict a 59-year-old trans woman, claiming her excessive smoking is stinking up the place.

Diane Wells has been living in a four-bedroom apartment in Central Park West’s El Dorado—where Marilyn Monroe, Moby and Alec Baldwin have all hung their hat at various times—for about a decade. The unit originally belonged to her mother, reclusive millionaire Constance Cheney, who died in 2007.

Wells has been puffing away the whole time, but it only became a issue apparently in the last year because of what the building says are holes in Wells’ walls that allow the smoke to travel to neighboring units. She’s refused to let management seal the holes, or to use air purifiers bought by her neighbors.

“Wells smokes so heavily that the smoke and odor permeates the elevator and extends as far down as the lobby of the building and at least as high up as the apartments on the 10th floor,” states a complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. “On multiple occasions, the cigarette smoke and odor filled the entry halls on at least the ninth and 10th floors of building, requiring shareholders to traverse a cloud of smoke between the elevator and their apartment entrances.”

Management is seeking an injunction barring Wells from smoking in her apartment until the holes are repaired, and order of eviction. But is this a case of tenant pride or co-op prejudice?

As a veteran of NYC real-estate wars we know co-op boards are notoriously aggressive against tenants that don’t fit their desired “profile.” And it’s a little hard to believe that even a smokestack would permeate 10 floors of a building—plus the lobby and elevators.

Of course there’s a good chance this smoking complaint is, well, a smokescreen: Wells is about $18,000 short on her maintenance fees and owes $42,000 in the escrow account she agreed to maintain after taking over the apartment. She’s also in a bitter dispute with her brother over Cheney’s estate (a Manhattan judge allowed Wells to stay at the El Dorado pending a ruling) and was arrested for assaulting their mother before her death, breaking the elderly woman’s arm.

So is there a whiff of transphobia in the El Dorado’s smoking gripe—or has Wells just burned her bridges?

Photo: Diego Silvestre


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